- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta engaged in a testy back-and-forth with Rep. J. Randy Forbes over cutting $487 billion from the Pentagon’s budget over the next decade during a House Armed Services Committee hearing Wednesday.

Mr. Forbes said it would have been better for the Defense Department to first develop a national strategy “and then come to Congress and say, ‘This is what we need to do to in order to do that job, to defend the country.’

“Wouldn’t you have agreed that that would have been a better approach?” the Virginia Republican said.

“You know, that would have been nice, but we were mandated to come up with $487 billion,” Mr. Panetta shot back.

“What we did was to give you $487 billion of cuts and then you were forced to create a strategy that worked within the parameters of those cuts. Is that correct?” Mr. Forbes said.

“That’s right,” Mr. Panetta said, adding that the Defense Department would have been required to change its strategy regardless because of the withdrawal of troops from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

“This wouldn’t have been the figure you would have picked — the $487 billion. Is that true?” Mr. Forbes said, referring to the spending cuts under the Budget Control Act of 2011.

“That’s for sure. That’s for sure,” Mr. Panetta said. “This is what Congress mandated. The majority of the [House Armed Services] committee voted for the Budget Control Act.”